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Trump remains a danger to the republic

Trump remains a danger to the republic

By Martin Dyckman • Guest Columnist | Some people may still wonder how the Germany of a century ago could have spawned Adolf Hitler, World War II and the Holocaust. It was, after all, one of the best-educated and highly cultured nations in Europe, if not the world.

How that happened should be clear now to every American in the aftermath of our own insurrection on January 6.  

It showed how people everywhere, even in an established democracy such as ours, are vulnerable to amoral demagogues who cynically exploit fears, resentments and prejudices, as Hitler did and Donald Trump does.

Although Trump failed to overthrow our Constitution that day, he’s still working at it — ceaselessly lying that the election was stolen, keeping his rank-and-file in thrall, demanding utter loyalty from elected Republicans, trying to purge those few who stand up to him, and bagging lots of money.

As people died and police officers were brutalized in the riot, Trump relished in the scenes of violence he was watching on television, waiting 187 minutes — more than three hours — before responding to pleas to call off the mob. He should have been indicted for sedition by now. 

It bears remembering that Hitler’s overthrow of the young Weimar Republic didn’t occur overnight. What history recalls as the Beer Hall Putsch of November 1923 seemed like a flop at the time, but the government’s failure to punish it as severely as it deserved enabled Hitler to seize power with less than majority votes only nine years later. Similarly, Trump and his allies are playing a long game of suppressing future votes and setting themselves up to overturn elections that they lose.

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The historical pattern repeats in many respects: Ordinary citizens turned into a frothing mob by a ceaseless barrage of lies. Private, fascist-style militias like the Proud Boys, whom Trump encouraged by telling them to “stand down and stand by.” Lawmakers cowed into subservience and silence. The citizenry polarized by increasingly vicious public and private debates.

The Washington Post’s fact-checkers tallied 30,573 untruths from Trump before they stopped counting in January. That included 503 on just the day before the election.  

Germany’s fledging democratic institutions crumbled under similar pressure. Ours, much older, held in the crucial hours when majorities in Congress refused to be cowed by Trump’s lies and his mob into rejecting Joe Biden’s fairly earned and honestly counted electoral votes. Even after the violence, though, two-thirds of the House Republicans and seven of their senators fed the Big Lie by voting to reject Biden electors.

Ominously, Trump and his allies are trying to purge any Republican who opposes them even slightly. His attacks on the 13 Republican House members who voted for the infrastructure bill have generated death threats for some of them. He’s trying to oust Mitch McConnell as Senate Republican leader even though it was McConnell who twice saved him from impeachment convictions that would have — and should have — barred him from running for president again. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is targeted too, despite how he debases himself to Trump, because he’s somehow not servile enough.

With Trump, it’s absolute, unwavering worship or out you go. That is what dictators do. As Hitler consolidated his power over the Reichstag, opposition lawmakers went into hiding to avoid voting against him. 

The American people have no natural immunity to someone like Trump because no previous demagogue ever rose so high. Huey Long was assassinated before he could run for president. The Senate itself censured Joe McCarthy, who died of liver failure attributed to his alcoholism. 

What makes Trump so much more dangerous is an internet that equates fact with fiction and promotes divisiveness for profit. 

The most disconcerting aspect of the mob that invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6, amid the cries of “Hang Mike Pence,” is how ordinary most of those newly minted criminals were. Apart from the Proud Boys and other organized thugs who took part, the great majority appear to have been people who would never have committed a violent offense under other circumstances. 

Trump had beguiled them with his lies and rhetoric, especially his promise to go with them to the Capitol before he watched in safety from the White House.

The Washington Post made that point this month in three superb articles detailing the days leading to the insurrection, the event itself, and in the aftermath the cowardice of the Republican politicians who, with a few notable exceptions, still refuse to hold Trump accountable. Republican control of the House after the 2022 elections would put an end to the investigation. 

In the second of those articles, the Post noted the moment when House Republicans were lining up in their cloakroom to sign official objections to Joe Biden’s electoral votes. Only one signature would suffice to halt the count and require debate, but two-thirds of them felt compelled to demonstrate their loyalty to Trump. 

“The things we do for the orange Jesus,” one of them was heard to mutter.

(Martin Dyckman is retired journalist who lives in Western North Carolina. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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2 comments

  • Perfectly explained, as always, Mr. Dycman. That Trump is a clear and presen was well proven by the former occupier of the White House himself. When Trump said on live television from Helsinki that he did not believe any of our US intelligence agencies and that he trusted "President Putin" when Putin declared that Russia hadn't interfered in the 2016 election, I thought surely he would be impeached and removed from office that month, October 2018.
    Continuing, Trump added stupidity to treason by musing, "I don't know why he would do that." Of course he didn't know; he has no knowlege of even recent history, much less of the Cold War, World War II, the brutality of regimes before and after the fall of the USSR, or any other history. Trump is indeed, as one of our esteemed top military officers said after working for him in the White House, "Putin's useful idiot."

    posted by Mary Curry

    Wednesday, 12/01/2021

  • Thank you for writing this, and it's all true. I see people still flying Trump flags and wonder what they can possibly be thinking. The man cares only about himself, money, power, and revenge against anyone who looks at him the wrong way

    posted by Susan Florence

    Monday, 11/29/2021

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